McClellan Chats About “What Happened”

Earlier today, former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan held an online chat to discuss his controversial new book. Some excerpts:

    Vienna, Va.: Scott: In judging your credibility, what relevance should people place upon the fact that your publishing house is affiliated with The Nation magazine, a very liberal publication, and that it has published books by liberal critic George Soros and even a book linking George W. Bush with murder?

    Scott McClellan: My publisher has published books from people across the political spectrum focused on important public policy topics, including Nathan Sharansky, an author whose work the president has encouraged a number of people at the White House to read.

    Northville, N.Y.: Thank you for your book, which I am eager to read. In news reports, you seem to be saying that President Bush sincerely wants to transform the Middle East and install democracies everywhere. Do you think this shows good judgment, and isn’t this the opposite of what your fellow Texan, Rep. Paul, would say about blowback from our arrogant meddling in other countries’ affairs? Do you subscribe to either philosophy? Also, from your knowledge of the people involved, do you think a military strike on Iran will be conducted before Bush leaves office?

    Scott McClellan: I came to realize that the driving motivation behind the president’s desire to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime was a sincere belief that Iraq could be the lynchpin for spreading democracy across the Middle East. In the book, I discuss a number of moments when he passionately talks about this idealistic and ambitious vision.

    During his campaign for president, he asserted that we needed a strong but humble foreign policy. 9/11 clearly changed some thinking. I do believe the Iraq decision legitimately calls into question the judgement of the president and some of his advisers who were intent on toppling the Iraqi regime. My philosophy is based in a moral belief that we should not wage war unless it is absolutely necessary. It is clear to me today that the Iraq War was not.

    Atlanta: While defending himself against your charges in an interview on FOX (yesterday I believe), Karl Rove said that your claims demonstrated just how out-of-the-loop you were on important decisions. I was astounded that he used this as a defense. The media (and the nation) depends upon the press secretary for need-to-know information about the administration’s actions. Did you consider yourself out-of-the-loop, and if so, how? Was this just a little CYA on his part, or a Freudian slip?

    Scott McClellan: I think that is a very good question. In the book, I discuss this very sentiment that existed among some Bush advisers. I participated in many presidential meetings–cabinet meetings, congressional meetings, foreign leader meetings, policy briefings and others. But this White House has been too secretive and too compartmentalized. Some decisions tend to be made in very small groups outside those meetings. The book covers this in pretty good detail, and my concerns about it as I was considering whether to move forward on being press secretary.